Living/Working February 1, 2019


February 1, 2019

VSO turns 100 as arts organizations plan for milestones

Bard on the Beach turns 30 this year; Vancouver Opera readies to celebrate 60th anniversary in 2020

Vancouver Symphony Society president Kelly Tweeddale brought the concept of having a Day of Music from similar extravaganzas that she was a part of when she was with orchestras in Cleveland and in Seattle | Chung Chow

It was January 26, 1919, and the Opera House on Granville Street was packed – not only in the gallery, where patrons paid $0.35 a pop, but also in the boxes and balcony, where they paid $1 each.

It was the first-ever concert of the Vancouver Symphony Society’s new Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO), and it was the first of five concerts in the inaugural season.

Few back then could have anticipated that the society would last 100 years, and that a century later it would be the oldest registered symphony society in Canada.

The Grammy-winning VSO’s staying power owes itself to countless proponents through the years, and the triumph of turning 100 years old is now being celebrated.

The first special event of its 2018-19 centennial season was a free July 14 concert at Sunset Beach, which drew an estimated 14,000 people and had costs covered by the Vancouver Park Board.

Kelly Tweeddale, president of the Vancouver Symphony Society, said she believes this was a good opportunity for the symphony to get out of its familiar Orpheum confines and be more accessible to people who might not normally buy symphony tickets.

Perhaps an even bigger way of connecting with the general public was what organizers dubbed the Day of Music, held on the VSO’s birthday, January 26.

More than 100 musical acts from across Vancouver performed in three contiguous venues – the Orpheum, the VSO’s Annex and the VSO School of Music – between Smithe and Robson streets on Seymour Street.

Those two free public extravaganzas are expected to bump season attendance this year up to 270,000 people, from 250,000 last year.

The budget has also risen, by about $1 million, to $18 million this year, compared with last year.

Extra spending is also financing commissioned musical works, and the 113-page book VSO 100: A Century of Memorable Moments, which traces the symphony’s evolution. Tweeddale plans to provide that book for free to large donors and to sell it at performances.

The book chronicles some of the VSO’s early champions, such as Mary Isabella Rogers, the widow of B.T. Rogers, who founded what is now known as Rogers Sugar and who died in 1918.

“She was relentless,” Tweeddale told Business in Vancouver. “The orchestra came and went but was always incorporated. Music was always at the centre. They never let the society die.”

The VSO’s moves to mark its special year may provide inspiration to the Vancouver Opera, which is in the early stages of determining how it will mark its 60th anniversary in the 2020-21 season, general director Kim Gaynor told BIV.

Next year also marks the 50th anniversary for Early Music Vancouver, and the 40th anniversary for the Vancouver Recital Society.

One thing for sure is that the Vancouver Opera will have a fundraising drive, Gaynor said.

She then quoted Rudolph Bing, former general manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, as having said, “The opera always loses money. That’s as it should be. Opera has no business making money.”

About one-third of the Vancouver Opera’s revenue comes from ticket sales, with the rest coming from either public sources or fundraising, she said.

Over at Bard on the Beach, a small amount of the 30-year-old Shakespeare theatre company’s $7 million budget comes from government, with about two-thirds financed from box office and retail sales.

Executives, meanwhile, are readying for what they hope will be the festival’s best-attended season, with 48 actors in the troupe – the most ever.

Do not expect any glitzy galas to mark 30 years as a company, though.

“In terms of, ‘Are we putting on a party? Or standing on the street corner?’ No, we’re not,” said artistic director Christopher Gaze.

“You can waste a lot of time and money, frankly, doing things like that.”

For Gaze, the best thing his organization can do to mark its special anniversary is put on great shows.

“We’ve built a festival that is sustaining itself,” he said.

“We’re one hell of a business. That’s very hard to do in the arts, and we don’t do it on the backs of the government either. We do it on the backs of people who buy tickets.” •




Chowder Chowdown returns to Vancouver this February

Photo courtesy Vancouver Aquarium

Which Vancouver chef dishes up the best bowl of chowder? The good eats will be served by the ladle-ful this February for the Vancouver Aquarium’s annual Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown.

Taking place at the Aquarium – our Ocean Wise HQ here in Vancouver – on the evening of Feb. 21, this adults-only evening of food, drink, and fun is all about celebrating seafood chowder.

Chefs from across the city and province come up with special chowders, served up with craft beer, and guests get to sip, spoon, and savour, and select their favourite soup.

For 2019, the Vancouver Chowder Chowdown chefs are:

  • Chef Ned Bell – Ocean Wise
  • Sous Chef Stacy Johnston – Ocean Wise
  • Chef Leah Patitucci – Culinary Team BC
  • Chef Anthony Marzo – Arc at Fairmont Waterfront
  • Chef Matt Marshall – Coquille
  • Chef Welbert Choi – Forage
  • Chef Chris Andraza – Fanny Bay Oyster Bar
  • Chef Daisuke Fukasaku – Fukasaku
  • Chef Hiro Hatada – Hapa Izakaya
  • Chef Jason Labahn – Honey Salt
  • Chef Curtis Demyon – Langara Fishing Lodge
  • Chef Will Lew – Notch8 at Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
  • Chef Josh Gonneau – Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts
  • Chef Chris Whittaker – Quaaout Lodge
  • Chef Clement Chan – Torafuku

The Chowdown has been previously held in the fall, with the last one – the 10th anniversary – taking place in 2017. There, 13 notable chefs from Ocean Wise seafood restaurant partners took part in a special All-Star Edition. The champ was Chef Julian Bond of Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, the People’s Choice went to Chef Paul Cecconi of Brodo Kitchen, and the Best Beer Pairing was Chef Yosuke Okubo of Hapa Izakaya.

Your ticket includes chowder, and beer, wine, and spirits sampling. All proceeds directly support the Ocean Wise sustainable seafood program.

Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown

When: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 from 7-10 p.m.
Where: Vancouver Aquarium – 845 Avison Way
Cost: $75; tickets available online

Vancouver is Awesome


What are we reading? January 31, 2019


Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.


Kirk LaPointe, editor-in-chief:

Fareed Zakaria takes us on a trip into the modern reality of irrational behaviour, leaving us with the question of whether economics can be trusted as truth any longer. - Foreign Policy


Few stories are as wrenching or illuminating as Allen Hershkowitz’s search for family history as he explores his parents’ incarceration at Auschwitz and Dachau. - The New York Review of Books


I will watch the Super Bowl on Sunday in the trusted broadcasting hands of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, only a couple of years into the role, who I think has changed the quality of so-called colour commentary in football. This profile validates that belief. - The New Yorker


Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:

Britain’s Brexit debacle boils down to its fundamental misunderstanding of what the European Union is all about, writes Jeremy Cliffe, the Economist’s Brussels bureau chief.

“Most of what the EU and its leading members say or do can be traced back to the quest for the quiet life,” Cliffe says. “Brexiters can forget their theories about Teutonic desires to rule the continent. Remainers can abandon their theories about Europe as a “peace project” per se. The reality is at once more prosaic and more poetic than either side allows: the European project knows no higher ideal than calm good living.” - The Guardian


Uber Canada has seen the future, and it has more electric bikes and scooters – and more booze. - Financial Post


Nelson Bennett, reporter:

Is liquefied natural gas really worse than coal in terms of greenhouse gas emissions? That argument has been used of late by environmental activists opposed to an LNG industry in B.C. This assertion seems to be largely based on a study by a Cornell University professor, that found high amounts of methane from natural gas extraction meant that LNG has a higher GHG content than coal power. Now, a new study seems to put this “worse than coal” argument to rest. Chemist and energy blogger Blair King explains what the study shows. - A Chemist in Langley

Just how cold is it in the U.S. Midwest? So cold that wind turbines can’t operate. As this Bloomberg story relates, wind power is supposed to provide maximum power in the wintertime, when it tends to be windier. But wind turbines were apparently never designed to operate in the frigid cold that a wobbling polar vortex has brought to the midwest and eastern Canada and U.S.  - Bloomberg


Hayley Woodin, reporter:

Don Pittis cautions that it will take more than a regime change to solve Venezuela’s severe economic challenges. - CBC

Trade rules were written when cloud computing was the stuff of science fiction.” A new initiative at the World Trade Organization aims to modernize global rules around e-commerce. Seems logical, but it’s not without controversy. - The Economist


Tyler Orton, reporter:

First, a fast-rising female esports star was threatened. Then she quit. Then she didn’t exist.

Vancouver will soon be welcoming its first Overwatch League team, the Titans. Here’s a case of what seemed to be male toxicity turning into something perhaps more problematic. - The Washington Post


Being Trapped Indoors Is the Worst.

Yes, yes – we can all chortle at the fortunes of our fellow Canadians forced to battle a polar vortex. Here’s why cabin fever is so effective at driving us out of our minds. - The Atlantic


Glen Korstrom, reporter:

I don’t use Facebook much, but its global influence cannot be ignored. Here’s a comprehensive New York Times account of how Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg have navigated Facebook’s escalating series of crises over data breaches and invasive practices. Much was not previously reported, and the report is said to be based on interviews with more than 50 people. - The New York Times



The murky reality of transparency in government

If we want to stop making a mockery of the term “transparency,” then our institutions have to accept they will be made a mockery of at times.

Small price, but let’s face it, who wants to do even that? Who in power is regularly willing to confess mistakes? Who among our governmental institutions would willingly accept the consequences?

It is why the John Horgan government’s latest pledge to open our legislature to freedom of information law meets my well-earned skepticism. Even if I eventually see it, I may not believe it.

It is a truism that politics and power attract people who generally wish to serve the public but overwhelmingly wish their accountability to only be served in private. I can count on one hand those in public life I’ve met over four decades in journalism who view admission of error as a virtue or who consider vulnerability an attribute. They are in a high-stakes business of human blunders – we all err, that’s why we have erasers on pencils – and use their power to shield secrets we ought to know.

I’ve lived on the other side as a subject of these information laws, when I was the CBC ombudsman. I’ve been present for conversations in which public requests were dealt with adversarially to avert embarrassment.

Even the most comfortable government and most confident institution devotes immense effort to prevent information from coming to light. Typically they under-resource the units that deal with public requests and think little of over-resourcing their expenditures on the vanity press to promote their achievements.

The sad result for them and us is a distorted understanding of their difficult decision-making.

Their power is a fortress, accessible by a rickety drawbridge occasionally lowered, alligators snapping as you cross.

It is a self-dealing perversion that these rules of engagement with power are made by the powerful themselves. Laws to compel release are framed by those with a history of non-disclosure. Who thought that one up? And how can we trust politicians to change the culture of entitlement to a culture of enlightenment?

The defensiveness of institutions has only hardened in this mercenary social media age in which, it should be conceded, slip-ups turn into memes and viral career-ending vortexes. My theory is that it has much to do with the rarity of decent disclosure. The revelations at the B.C. legislature of the expense exploits of the clerk and sergeant-at-arms were a shock because they had always been cloaked. If there were frequent concessions, we would treat them with the proper proportionality, which is to acknowledge the obvious – that the complexity of public institutions will by the law of averages yield bad behaviour or rotten results at times.

Bit by bit, the situation worsens about our right to know. Last week one media outlet reported of an important meeting about a senior military officer’s conduct in which there were no notes taken, and I know these non-notated events to be common now. Long ago many reports had their copyrights vested with the contracted firms, which could claim a commercial confidence and prevent release. From the early days routine information produced by public institution lawyers were considered cloaked by solicitor-client privilege. So much is exempt from release, it is intimidating to try.

We are becoming accustomed, even accepting, when told there are “no records” when we know there either ought to be or are. Steadily and surely the institutions have secured their supremacy over information.

We cannot be surprised, then, when the lawmakers determine the legislature is not subject to its purview – that “the people’s house” is not actually a “public body.”

The unfortunate reality is that our craft and those who advocate the right to know have been ineffective at rallying public support. Even though we possess some power in distribution, we are our own worst promoters because we do not let you know what you don’t know.

But in this inept position, I can offer some advice if the premier so wishes to hear it: Turn the concept of freedom of information on its head, do as they do in the German city-state of Hamburg and make information routinely disclosed unless there are arguments against its release.

If you really believe you have a strong government, it will weather the initial public gale and earn an immense respect over time for fostering trust in those who elect you. It will sustain you, not clobber you.

If, though, you do nothing or just want to fiddle around the edges, well, we will keep coming at you. One day you will have your own wood splitter. •

Kirk LaPointe is editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.